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Modern hockey idealist Olympian Bhola no more (1/22/2019)
--K. Arumugam
India's double Olympian R S Bhola is no more. He died today at his residence in New Delhi. The Melbourne Olympics god medallist was 92 years.

Incomparable left winger of his times, Raghubir Singh Bhola represented Services in the National Championships before getting selected for India.


A highly qualified academician, Bhola epitomized the feature of early times of Independent India when educated elites like Engineers, doctors and journalists played hockey for the country.

During my long association with the great Olympian, I found him to be pioneer of modern hockey. He was one of the earliest propenents of modern hockey when most of his peers were groping in dark about changes that were coming up globally like synthetic turf, composite sticks, focus on player fitness rather than skilss etc.

Bhola occupied top rank in the Indian Air Force.

He stayed in the United States for larger part of his last two decades in which he used to go to various libraries and make indepth study as to how India can improve fitness, bring science into their game etc.

I had the benefit of many his sessions, which were truly enlightening.

He was often looking for right platform to espouse his views, and was somewhat dejected that the new medium of communication a ka TV channels did not evidence much interest. This was when private TVs were coming up. He did make many presentations to various bureaucrats with the concerned ministries and helped them take vital decisions.

In the 80s and 90s India was almost a sulking country, not accepting any change that the FIH would introduce.

Bhola fumed at those who complaint of rule changes as the FIH 'plot' to kill Asian hockey kind of stuff.


His first retort will be, "We are fools". "Hum sab gadhe (donkeys) hain"

"We should be positive in thinking and accept everything that is global, modern".

"Our hockey community is misleading the country on many fronts, they are always scared of reality"

When the FIH gave a go ahead for composite sticks for use in the international matches, there was a hue and cry in India.

He castigated all those in his inimitable style. "We can't have wooden sticks on turfs. They are many benefits of having composite sticks. First of all, it can improve power, can be mass produced".

He said so when entire hockey community was up against introduction of composite sticks!

He was habituated to calling spade a spade, and naturally was a strong critic of the now defunct Indian Hockey Federation especially the regime headed by late KPS Gill.

When I organized many events to highlight the short-comings the powers that be, Bhola was a pillar of strenth to me.

He was at the forefront of protest rally that I organized in New Delhi after India failed to get a medal in 2006 Asian Games, and was also part of the delegation that met Sports Minister Mani Shankar Iyer.

So also two years before that in a protest that I organized in front of the IHF office on omission of Dhanraj Pillay from the Olympic probables' list.

When Sports Authority of India was reluctant to spare their lawns for organizing a condolence meeting that I arranged, he came to my rescue. It was on his call even Army officers attended the meet on the lawns of national stadium.

He was straight forward, had the gift of gab and fearless in expressing views.

Till the last breath he was thinking about hockey.

Old timers will recollect Bhola as a great hockey player but won't stop reminding how he missed a sure goal in the Rome Olympics, where India lost the gold for the first time in its hockey history and the way he managed the 1976 Olympic team as its Manager.

For a hockey career that spanned six decades such criticisms are not uncommon.

I lost a great friend.

May his soul rest in peace.


I am deeply shocked to hear of the passing of Group Captain (Retd) Raghubir Singh Bhola.

A part of the Indian men's hockey teams that won Olympic gold in Melbourne in 1956 and silver in Rome in 1960, he has made outstanding contribution to hockey, as player, umpire and team manager.

I have known him as one of the most upright and outstanding students of the game and as someone who was always willing to assist anyone who sought his counsel. He was always willing to lend his ear and offer his honest opinion.

The sport of hockey will be indebted to him for his glittering role in its evolution.

My sincere prayers that his soul finds eternal peace and my heartfelt condolences to his family and the entire hockey fraternity.

Narinder Dhruv Batra President, FIH

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